By KEVIN JAKAHI
Tribune-Herald sports writer
Dylan Rush will either exit as a Toughman Hawaii King of the Ring or a defeated champion, who lost his belt to a challenger with impressive credentials, including a heavy right hand.
In his last amateur bout, Rush will put his super heavyweight title on the line against Deutsch Pu‘u, a former K-1 fighter, in the main event of the Toughman Hawaii kickboxing gala on Saturday night.
Rush is 2-0 in kickboxing and 3-0 in mixed martial arts. It’s likely his last kickboxing fight. The former Stanford wrestler will make his MMA pro debut against Analu Brash in an Unorthodox Industries Championship bout July 28 on Maui.
He signed with a management company, One Dream Zero Distractions, based in Nevada. Rush, 24 and a Ka‘u High graduate, plans to move to Las Vegas after his pro debut to pick up local pro fights and build his record, hoping to reach his dream of landing a job with the UFC.
But first Rush faces Pu‘u, who has a 3-2 MMA pro record, including two straight losses, the last to Esteves Jones in a Worldwide MMA USA event in March. Pu‘u, 34, who lives in Waipahu, Oahu, also fought several times for the K-1 organization.
“It’s the biggest fight for both fighters,” Toughman promoter Wally Carvalho said. “Both fighters have big things lined up. Pu‘u signed up with K-1. He’s going back to K-1.
“Dylan has got pro fights lined up in Las Vegas. I have him on the list for the Super Fight League in India. If he goes 3-0 or 4-0 as a pro, he could be fighting out in India real soon. There are big plans for him in the MMA world and he’s on the right track.”
Rush, who graduated with a drama degree last summer at Stanford, spent a month in England training with James Thompson for his Super League Fight bout against Bobby Lashey on May 5 in India, a fight Thompson won.
That was a worthwhile experience for Rush, who was set up by Carvalho, hired as the SFL’s head cutman. Carvalho was also contracted to coach fighters.
“This card is stacked beyond stacked of any Toughman I’ve ever done. From the first to the main event, it’s nothing but nonstop action,” said Carvalho, who also added Ikaika Martin, Chris Willems, Albert Manners and Brandon Torres to the lineup. “I’ve never stacked a card this deep. Usually there are amateurs, but not for this show. They’re all veterans and guys who have won in the previous Tournament of Champions to fight on this card.
“The reason for the $10 ticket is I’m trying to build a feeder program for the Super Fight League and they need to see a big crowd. I want to bring fighters here and send fighters to India. I’m trying to develop a bridge for the two organizations to work for each other.”
Rush has spent his life wrestling, winning and improving. At the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state championships, he captured three gold medals in wrestling and one in judo.
He took up judo for fun, he joked. And he also picked up kickboxing to sharpen his striking skills, and now trains with Stephen Wong, whose specialty is Muay Thai — stand-up striking combined with clinching techniques.
During his time in England, Rush helped Thompson with his wrestling. The flow of knowledge was a two-way street. Apparently, both guys got better.
“I learned how to integrate my boxing knowledge with my wrestling to have everything more MMA based,” he said. “I learned how the two things go together, how they work hand in hand.
“Wrestling is absolutely, 100 percent the most important thing in my MMA career. In wrestling, you learn personal accountability and to ignore pain and work though adversity. Not only that, but the techniques are directly applicable to MMA.”
As for his drama degree, Rush has no plans of turning into the next Robert De Niro. He’s too busy maintaining his perfect amateur fighting record, which gets wiped out once he turns pro.
“I did drama because I enjoyed it in school. I might do something with that later, but for now, no,” said Rush, who added that a fight in India would be intriguing. “If a fight in India happens, that’s great. But my ultimate goal is to fight in the UFC.”